SAVE for a bit of a scrum at the bar of the Parcels Yard, the newish – and pricey – pub above the concourse, all seemed peaceful at Kings Cross station last Wednesday.

Things may not be so quiet on April 5: usually accompanied by headlines about flying feathers, the great duck debate declines to down size.

It’s all very British, quackers and then some, and we’ve mentioned it before.

A £95,000 statue was commissioned to honour Sir Nigel Gresley, the greatest of locomotive engineers. At his feet, it was agreed, would sit a little mallard duck. It would stand at Kings Cross.

Chiefly it was a nod to the Gresley-designed loco called Mallard, holder of the 126mph world speed record for steam locomotives. That Sir Nigel kept waterfowl on the moat of his rather splendid home seemed coincidentally appropriate.

The bronze was commissioned by the Gresley Society, of which I am proudly a member. When they saw the proposals, however, Sir Nigel’s grandsons were decidedly out for the duck. “It’s a statue of a man, not a stupid duck,” protested Tim Godfrey. The Society ditched the duck.

Others had rather liked the little waddler. Up tails all, hell broke loose. The papers loved it, perhaps even splashed on it.

The Times talked of a “grassroots insurgency”, the Independent of a bizarre dispute, Ian Jack in the Guardian of a “hopelessly dim-witted” decision.

A writer in Steam Railway magazine supposed the Gresley Society “the laughing stock of the railway heritage world”.

Even Sir William McAlpine, the Society’s patron and saviour of the Flying Scotsman, thought that the duck showed Sir Nigel to be “human” and to have interests other than railways.

Others believed the mallard to be infra dig – “unbalanced duck fanatics” said Society chairman David McIntosh.

Ahead of the Gresley Society’s annual meeting, in London in December, the 500-or-so members were urged – if not attending – to use proxy votes to support candidates for the council who favoured the duck. “An attempted duckiest putsch,” The Times supposed.

The council, however, ruled all but one of the nominations out of order, refused to accept proxy votes or to allow non-members into the room. A photograph of the top table is without retired bank worker Chris Nettleton, from Eaglescliffe, both membership secretary and editor of the admirable Gresley Observer.

Mr Nettleton, it’s said, was “on sentry duty.”

The society has now admitted that they wrongly applied the proxy rules, though a formal complaint to the Charity Commission is still possible. Attempts are also being made to persuade Camden Council that, since planning permission was granted for a statue with duck, a fresh planning application is necessary.

Libby Ranzetta, whose on-live save-the-duck petition attracted 3,000 signatures including the broadcaster Vanessa Feltz, even attempted to join the society and was told by Mr McIntosh that she would first need to be interviewed.

He suggested, of all places, the Parcels Yard. Since Ms Ranzetta lives in Bury St Edmunds, she was less than enthusiastic. A brisk correspondence followed. “This is sounding less and less like an interview and more and more like an ambush,” wrote Ms Ranzetta.

April 5 marks the 75th anniversary of Sir Nigel’s death. The society still plans to unveil its statue. It may be necessary to book another day return to Kings Cross.

HOMEWARD last Wednesday, we found ourselves across the aisle from renowned raconteur Alan Wright, himself a former Echo columnist and long a familiar voice on the former BBC Radio Cleveland.

All that stopped 15 years ago. “People still come up and say they listen to me every day. I don’t like to tell, them,” he said.

He had two years as chief executive of Durham County Cricket Club, stood for the Conservatives in his native Hartlepool in the 2010 general election – 16.7 per cent swing to the Tories, still some way second – and now helps make films.

There was something that sounded like a documentary about women’s cricket in China, but probably we were going through a tunnel at the time.

He’s now 68, spends happy days speaking for his supper on cruise ships. “I love it,” said Alan. “Most of the time I’m the youngest person on board – and the only one with my own hips.”

LAST week’s column was on the buses, specifically the meandering X18 from Newcastle to Berwick. “Do you think that the young lady on the cover of the timetable is demonstrating that it’s quicker on foot?” asks John Heslop in Durham, among a gratifying number of readers glad that they came along for the ride.

Personally I think she’d been caught short.

Peter Chapman’s a bit surprised that the Berwick Bullet doesn’t feature in David McKie’s admirable book Great British Bus Journeys, though his proferred link to the Campaign for Better Transport website suggests that a follow-up edition would be rather thinner.

It talks of “massive cuts” and of “the Beeching of the buses”, North Yorkshire among the worst hit counties as rural routes recede. The X18 rolls on; miss it or you’ll catch it.

PUBLIC interest, we have uncovered a potential pecking order problem in Cockfield. The column two weeks ago noted that – as in Reeth and Marske and doubtless elsewhere – Cockfield’s three pubs were known universally as Top, Middle and Bottom House.

But what when Cockfield had four pubs and the Greyhound was always Top dog? How were the others identified?

Nigel Dowsn, Cockfield blogger and barber by appointment to the editor, admits he’s baffled and has promised further investigation. More on the house rules ere long.

...And finally, we hear for the second time in 48 years from Joan Teare. “You interviewed me in 1968, I had my picture taken outside Doggarts in Bishop Auckland,” she recalls.

Joan lived in Bridge Place, one of that barely divisible group of villages east of Bishop which now answers to the Dene Valley.

On April 30 she’s organising a reunion of the four schools – Eldon, Close House, Auckland Park and Coronation – which taught almost within chalking distance of one another. Joan, then Walton, was at Eldon until it burned down overnight. “I was about five,” she recalls. “I remember my dad telling me there was no need to go to school because there wasn’t one any longer.”

She moved to Close House school, then to Coronation. “It was a lovely community, a real community, back then,” says Joan.

Further reminiscence will doubtless be exchanged at the reunion, for former pupils from the 1930s to 1960s, at Cockton Hill WMC in Bishop Auckland. Admission’s £10, including pie and peas and 50s and 60s disco. “We’ll probably just talk all night,” says Joan. She’s on 01388-766400.